Print 14 comment(s) - last by Aloonatic.. on Dec 11 at 12:54 PM

Intel will launch a whopping 35 Atom-based tablets next year. Those tablets are powered by two different platforms -- Oak Trail, which features fancier I/O, and Moorestown, a leaner platform.  (Source: Intel via CNET)

[Click to enlarge] Moorestown does not support PCIe or SATA, thus only Linux distributions like Meego and Android can run on it. Windows 7 tablets require Intel's alternative Oak Trail platform.  (Source: Intel via Anandtech)
Oak Trail and Moorestown are looking good, Medfield not so much

Determined not to be left behind as society transitions towards a more mobile computing paradigm, Intel vowed to deliver strong entries to the tablet and smartphone sectors.  At a Barclays Capital 2010 Global Technology Conference, it delivered an update on its progress.  Long story short, things are looking good on the tablet front, but not so good on the smartphone front.


Intel CEO Paul Otellini's big news was that 35 tablets powered by Intel's Atom processor will launch next year.  Describing the tablet platforms, he states:

We have two flavors of products.  One carries our PC legacy, the codename is Oak Trail. This is for the Windows environment. That's important for people who want the advantage of PC peripheral compatibility. All the printers in the world work, all the USB drivers in the world work. Any PC peripheral will work perfectly well with Oak Trail. [It is a] very solid, high-performance, low-power version of Atom.

We have an even more optimized [Atom] version called Moorestown. For people who want the most lightweight, longest battery life, thinnest machine. It doesn't carry the PC compatibility. It's got the x86 instruction set, so Internet compatibility is there, but we're not worrying about legacy support [in Windows].

Oak Trail and Moorestown are both four-chip designs -- a power management chip, a wireless I/O chip, and North/South Hubs.  They share identical North Hub chips, with both having a Lincroft system-on-a-chip up north.  The Lincroft SoC includes one or more Silverthorne-derivative Atom cores, an Intel GMA 600 graphics core (OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenGL 2.1, OpenVG 1.1, 400MHz), a memory controller, and video encode/decode units.  The entire chip is produced on a 45 nm process.

Where the two platforms differ is in their South Hub (also referred to as the "Platform Control Hub" - PCH).  Moorestown's South Hub includes an SSD controller, USB controller, an image processing blocks for webcams, audio I/O, and more.  Moorestown's PCH is dubbed "Langwell".  

By contrast Oak Trail packs a beefier PCH dubbed "Whitney Point", which adds PCIe and full SATA connectivity to the mix.  Thus, as Otellini stated, Windows 7 tablets will only be able to run on Oak Trail.  Both Oak Trail and Moorestown's PCHs are built on a 65 nm process.

The power management IC (PMIC), which Intel is contracting to an unknown third party adds one more chip to the mix.    The last chip(s) is/(are) the "Evans Peak" Hub, the wireless hub of the system.  Intel offers a single chip solution, which will support Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, Wi-Fi, and 2.5 GHz Wi-Max (incompatible with the 2.3 GHz/3.0 GHz networks of South Korea and other countries).  Third parties can add in extra chips to this hub -- say for EV-DO (3G) connectivity, or LTE (4G) connectivity.

Intel's slides reveal that a number of the biggest computer makers will be trying their hands at Windows tablets (Oak Trail-powered, remember) in 2011.  Those players include Toshiba, Lenovo, Dell, ASUS, and Fujitsu.  Conspicuously absent was Acer (which is plugging Meego... more in a second) and HP, which is presumably working on webOS designs.

A number of newer names -- Motion Computing, Cosmos, and EXOPC will also be trying their hand at Windows tablets.  Expect a variety of form factors (5-inch, 7-inch, 10-inch) from these players.

The slides also reveal a number of Android and Meego tablets are incoming in 2011, powered by Atom.  Note these tablets may be running Moorestown 
or Oak Trail -- it's anyone's guess.  

High-profile Android tablet makers include ASUS, Cisco, AT&T, Lenovo, and Dell.  Open Peak and Avaya are a couple of the fresher faces.  Meego, a rival Linux distribution that's the fusion of Intel's Moblin distribution codebase and Nokia's Maemo codebase, is also going to be popping up in a handful of tablets.  Acer is listed as exclusively producing Meego tablets, which may give the platform a boost.  The remaining Meego partakers -- Indamixx, Gemtek, and WeTab -- aren't exactly household names yet.

Intel's Windows 7, Android, and Meego tablets will combat the incredibly popular iPad, and several existing Android designs, both of which are based on the rival ARM architecture.  Key ARM chipmakers include Samsung (who co-designed the iPad's core with Intrinsity), Qualcomm, and NVIDIA.

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]


Whither art thou, Intel smartphones?  

As Intel's ARM architecture rivals cook up ever nastier dual core designs, with blazing speeds and lean power envelopes, Intel has let its own smartphone offerings slip yet further into the future.  Intel had hoped to get something out the door in 2011, based on previous comments, but Mr. Otellini's press conference left it ambiguous whether Intel will actually ship smartphone products to customers next year.

He stated, "It's a marathon, not a sprint. ["Medfield" is] in customer sampling...for shipment [in phones] in 2011 and 2012. You will see smartphones from premier-branded vendors in the marketplace in [the second quarter of] 2011 with Intel silicon inside them."

Medfield relies on a more advanced Atom core, the 32 nm successor to Silverthorne.

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I'm not surprised the phone makers are holding off
By DanNeely on 12/9/2010 10:37:31 AM , Rating: 3
Moorestown has several more chips than competing arm offerings which typically integrate everything but the radio and memory chips directly into the SOC and then attach the ram chip on top of of SOC to save additional space. Intel's current offerings aren't compact enough for any but the bulkiest of phones. There might be some R&D/prototyping going on, but until a more integrated option comes out, presumably with the 32nm die shrink I don't expect to see anything happen.

RE: I'm not surprised the phone makers are holding off
By B3an on 12/9/10, Rating: 0
By atlmann10 on 12/9/2010 11:23:11 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah; and I also kind of disagree on his marathon comment, or at least would add that there is a qualifier for the Marathon, which of course Intel got a flat tire on the way to. Either way to be in the Marathon you first have to be in the top ten of the qualifier.

Of course there main competition on the desktop is doing the same thing. The ARM processor's seem to be doing a great job of taking Intel out of this platform so far though. I think this means that sooner or later much like the P4/Core2 days Intel will come scrambling back in a hurry at sometime.

By DanNeely on 12/9/2010 11:58:13 AM , Rating: 3
A lot of the problem with Moorestown is that having sold their Freescale division some years back this is all effectively new territory for them, Langwell (and IIRC the PMIC) are almost entirely licensed IP and were created at TSMC rather than risk delays with getting them working on an Intel process.

AFAIK the Moorestown successor is supposed to integrate the southbridge and PMIC onto the SoC. If they also glue the ram chip on top of it they'll have a package that is comparable to that of the competing ARM vendors.

The atom CPU itself is significantly faster than the arm chips currently used in smart phones so its size penalty isn't that surprising. The real question is how it will stack up against the dual core A9's it will find itself competing against once it's in a competitive package sometime next year.

RE: I'm not surprised the phone makers are holding off
By Da W on 12/9/2010 1:50:13 PM , Rating: 2
Anybody happy with the coming of so many windows tablets? If they can do it with moorestown, they can do it even better with AMD's brazos.

By DanNeely on 12/9/2010 2:12:16 PM , Rating: 2
Better performance, but unless they can match Intel for battery life it's going to be mostly pointless. Doing that is going to be a challenge not only because AMD has historically lagged intel on this front, but because Intel is pushing the envelope. Lincroft is made on a low power process instead of the standard high performance one that mainstream atom as well as conventional laptop/desktop cpus use. The low power process costs about 10% in performance but drops idle power use by an order of magnitude; this lets Intel get idle power consumption that's edging into arm territory.

RE: I'm not surprised the phone makers are holding off
By rudy on 12/9/2010 3:04:36 PM , Rating: 2
I dont care what is the point of tablets, your phone should already do everything a tablet does. Your laptop handles everything else.

A tabet is alot like a point and shoot camera it has completely lost its usefulness in the modern landscape. It is just people are not practical enough to see that. Anywere you go you always have your phone not so much the tablet or point and shoot. And if you bother to bring those you could have just brought your laptop or SLR.

This is just consumerism they figured out how to get you to run around with 3 devices instead of 2 so you bet they will advertise and talk it up as much as possible

RE: I'm not surprised the phone makers are holding off
By Flunk on 12/10/2010 8:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
The vast majority of people don't care enough to fuss around with a SLR camera.

Tablets are all about form factor, they're very good for non-techie people who just want to surf the web or the living room. They're simple, much like a point and shoot camera and some people prefer that.

RE: I'm not surprised the phone makers are holding off
By B3an on 12/10/2010 3:33:31 PM , Rating: 2
His point was a smartphone would replace a point and shoot camera and a tablet. If you need a better camera - go SLR. if you need a bigger screen - go netbook/laptop.
I really dont see a use for tablets apart from very specific needs.

By Aloonatic on 12/11/2010 12:54:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I think you're right in your interpretation. The main problem is that they're very wrong on the camera front, which is probably where the confusion has arisen. Unless they really live in a world where the only options that they think that anyone could ever want or need are narrow, often grainy pictures, or very good photos after you've worked out what lense you really need, composition etc etc.

I do love coming to DT to read some of the comments. How you guys can't see that these products are OPTIONS for people who MIGHT HAVE DIFFERENT NEEDS TO YOU, which are JUST AS VALID as your own.

Sometimes I think that some of you believe that the universe only exists as far as you can see it, disappearing behind a door when it closes. Only to be created when you open it again as you are the only people who matter in the entire universe.

By Da W on 12/10/2010 10:32:35 AM , Rating: 2
That's the point, a windows tablet SHOULDN'T do everything your phone does already, it should do what your desktop does. That's why microsoft is tyring to be different from apple/google and run their desktop OS in tablets and keep a separate OS for their phone.

May be i'm shooting 2-3 years ahead, but i'm dreaming of a 500$ windows 8 tablet running on a virtual machine being more or less an extention of my expensive/powerful HTPC (which will have a PC version of kinnect by then, and could replace the set-top box for digital TV, and if MS was smart windows 8 should be able to run Xbox games - 3rd gen Xbox should just be a certification program for PCs). The tablet would also serve as a remote control for the HTPC and touch-input device for some Xbox games. Add-in support for a bluetooth keyboard when needed and you're good to go. If all that was a reality, MS wouldn't have to fear the ipad and chrome OS nor Sony and nintendo. They have the technology to make it so.

And then you have your phone in your pocket, only useful when you're on the go, syncing with your Ford.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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